As Kyle Stanley will tell you, he never expected to be at Royal St. George's this week. Following a difficult playoff loss at the John Deere Classic, that saw Steve Stricker make up a two-shot deficit to win, he figured his runner-up finish wasn't enough to get him in the Open field.
It wasn't until the tournament was over that an official informed him that he had, in fact, done enough to get in field.
It's a good thing Stanley packed his passport in his suitcase when he headed to Silvis, Ill., because later that evening, the South Carolina native was on his way across the pond to play a style of golf he wasn't familiar with coming into the week.
"I don't have much experience in links golf," Stanley said after Thursday's round. "But like they say, when it's breezy, swing easy. So I've kinda been doing that and controlling my ball flight."
Even with the lack of experience, Stanley certainly did everything right in Round 1, carding a 2-under 68 that capped a very special first round at the Open Championship that has him sitting just a couple strokes back of the lead.
It's safe to say nobody had Stanley pegged as a potential low American pick or darkhorse to win the tournament. His lack of experience was a big reason why he's went under the radar; and the quick turnaround at the Deere was supposed to make it difficult for him to get acclimated to time change and course.
Yet even with all the factors going against him, Stanley proved again why the Open is where the unlikeliest players come to get noticed. It wasn't too long ago that another unheralded American made waves in his first Open appearance at Royal St. George's.
That golfer was 2003 Open winner Ben Curtis, who came out of nowhere to become a major champion. It's way too early to compare the two, but even if Stanley doesn't turn out to be cut from the same cloth as Curtis this week, his first trip across the pond has already proven to be a memorable one.
For a guy who thought he wasn't going to be here, Stanley will leave the tournament with something just as valuable as a high finish this week, and that's the experience of being in contention at a major championship.